Virtual events: here to stay

Whilst virtual events are not new, they have really come to the fore since covid struck. But, writes James Evelegh, they look set to stay even after covid goes.

By James Evelegh

Virtual events: here to stay
Photograph: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash.

Virtual events are here to stay and have a fantastic future in the publishing mix. So says the guest on this week’s podcast, Ivor Eisenstadt, managing director of healthcare publisher MGP.

MGP’s webinar programme has increased tenfold since lockdown began and its annual in-person event, Guidelines Live, went virtual last year, for obvious reasons.

Whilst the industry-wide pivot to virtual events was caused by covid, it looks increasingly likely that they will remain a permanent fixture on publishers’ schedules long after covid has disappeared in our rear view mirror.

The reasons are plentiful: they are easier to put on; there’s no cap on attendee numbers; you can spread the net wider in terms of attendees, speakers and sponsors.

Publishers have reported some highly profitable virtual events these past twelve months, whilst a good few have admitted to the odd one that, err, didn’t quite go according to plan.

Here are a few tips, courtesy of Ivor, for putting on successful virtual events:

  1. Make it a great experience: unlike in-person events, you don’t have a captive audience. You need to work harder to stop them clicking away.
  2. Choose the right hosting platform; don’t skimp.
  3. Consider risk-share models to encourage hesitant exhibitors to commit.
  4. Ensure the exhibitor section doesn’t develop tumbleweed by giving delegates really good reasons to visit the stands.
  5. Try to minimise the risk of tech problems. Partly this is down to tech checks and rehearsals, but also consider pre-recording some or all of the sessions, whilst keeping the Q&A segments live.
  6. Share the data: virtual shows produce loads of valuable data, which you should look to share with exhibitors, delegates and sponsors. It’s all about transparency and collective learning.
  7. And… do keep learning! Virtual events have huge potential but publishers need to keep experimenting and improving their offering.

In-person events will return and there’ll always be a big place for them, but it looks like we’ll all be attending virtual ones long after we no longer have to.